Eight start-ups entered the ring for the second UpStart pitch competition final in Belfast, but only one could emerge victorious.
Digital DNA 2017 took place last week from 6 to 7 June, enveloping Belfast in a jam-packed schedule of events, and attracting players from across the digital landscape to the Northern Ireland capital.
UpStart represents just one part of the Digital DNA extravaganza. Over the course of the two-day competition, 17 hopeful tech and digital start-ups in seven categories competed to be named overall winner of the UpStart pitch battle, which took place in a genuine battleground: inside a boxing arena at St George’s Market.
The competition was announced in March, with an original prize package valued at £50,000. The stakes grew higher, though, when late additions to the winnings raised the value to £150,000 for the best start-up on the day.
In the end, eight finalists were selected from the heats to face a panel of industry experts and investors, who not only evaluated pitches, but grilled the start-ups to select their winner.
Ready to scale
Reposit offers a fast and affordable online alternative to the £3.5bn tenancy deposit market, protecting landlords, lowering void periods for agents and reducing tenants’ outlay.
“We’re absolutely delighted to have won the Digital DNA UpStart 2017 competition. It’s a reflection of the hard work that the whole Reposit team has delivered in changing renting for the better, for everyone,” Reposit CEO Curran McKay said to Startacus following his team’s victory.
It was McKay who represented Reposit in the contest, and he added: “It’s doubly special to have pitched in the ring in my home country, and we’ll be using the prizes to speed up the roll-out of RentPass, the UK’s first CV for renting.”
— startacus (@iamstartacus) June 7, 2017
The judges were won over by Reposit’s apparent ability to scale, exhibited by a solid plan for expansion in the months ahead, and its accomplished team and their expertise. The panel included key figures from the UK and Ireland start-up ecosystem including Eamonn Carey, managing director of Techstars; Martina Lubrano, incubator associate at Deloitte Ventures; and Per Stahl, chief investment officer at the Lucey Fund.
Reposit’s £150,000 prize package includes £10,000 in cash as well as growth support services, with access to the Kx platform and Microsoft’s BizSpark Plus programme, up to £100,000 worth of Azure credits, a one-day strategy workshop in the Deloitte Ventures Lab in London and a one-day Greenhouse session at Deloitte Digital’s Belfast technology studio.
The second-place prize was awarded to Kodama, a smart toy platform combining traditional toys and digital games for children aged five to 12. Kodama’s patent-pending technology enables interactions akin to VR, and this London-headquartered start-up has ambitions to be the leader in the smart toy space, as well as a disrupter in other markets.
This year marked the second ever Digital DNA UpStart competition and, according to Alastair Cameron, co-founder of Startacus and host of the pitch event, the quality of entrants was “phenomenal”.
“[UpStart] is a credit to the amount of talent and innovation that is being produced in the UK, Ireland and Europe at the moment,” said Cameron, who is glad to see UpStart become an integral part of the Digital DNA event and looks forward to developing the competition further in 2018.
The Digital DNA event also involved the Digital DNA Awards on 6 June in St Anne’s Cathedral. The ceremony saw Flint Studios named Digital Company of the Year while Wia founder Conall Laverty was crowned Young Person of the Year. Meanwhile, chain-of-custody foodtech firm Arc-Net secured the top start-up prize this time, with the award for Start-up of the Year.